Winter 2010 - UNISON Yorkshire and Humberside

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Winter 2010 - UNISON Yorkshire and Humberside
P10 LIVING WITH MYSELF
Andrew Carver ‘comes out’ as autistic
and tells of its huge impact on his life
P20 THE PEACEMONGER’S WAR
Lindis Percy has been arrested, fined,
jailed and assaulted for her beliefs
P32 THE CON-DEMS’ BIG LIE
Ministers say there’s no alternative,
but it’s a con, says Paul Routledge
UNISON
ACTIVE!
THE MAGAZINE FOR MEMBERS IN YORKSHIRE AND HUMBERSIDE
CUT TO
THE
BONE
Key services will operate with
a skeleton staff – so much for
Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ p4 &22
WINTER 2010 | ISSUE 7 | £3
WWW.UNISON-YORKS.ORG.UK
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 03
WELCOME
TACKLE TAX CHEATS!
OurUnion
DAVE
PRENTIS
GENERAL
SECRETARY
General Secretary
Dave Prentis
Regional Secretary
Cliff Williams
Regional Convenor
Wendy Nichols
UNISON
Yorkshire & Humberside
Commerce House, Wade Lane,
Leeds LS2 8NJ
T: 0845 355 0845 or freephone
textphone 08000 967 968
W: www.unison-yorks.org.uk
Lines are open 6am-midnight
Monday-Friday and
9am-4pm Saturdays
Editor
Barrie Clement
Consulting Editor
Mary Maguire
Chief Photographer
Jim Varney
Contributors
Richard Arthur, Peter Carroll, Andrew
Carver, Alan Hughes, Peter Lazenby,
Mary Maguire, Linda Millband, Wendy
Nichols, Dave Prentis, Paul Routledge
and Sian Thomas
Cover Image
Asadour Guzelian
sborne has
swung the axe,
aided and
abetted by Cleggzilla.
It was sharp and it cut
deep into the heart of
our communities, our
jobs and our local
services. Driven by
ideology, this brutal
coalition will blight the
lives of millions and
burden the poorest
unfairly with paying
the price of the
bankers’ folly and
greed.
Women face the
double whammy of job
and service cuts. Local
government has taken
a massive hit. Tens of
thousands of jobs have
already gone and many
more put at risk as
council bosses
O
scramble to pre-empt
decisions and save
cash. This latest
round of cuts, nearly
30 per cent over four
years, will devastate
our society.
Yorkshire and
Humberside will be
among the worst
affected areas where
more than 20 per cent
of the workforce is
employed in the
public sector. The
knock-on impact on
the private sector will
destroy more jobs and
lives. It is cruel and
irresponsible to claim
that the private sector
will be able to create
enough jobs to go
round. It won’t and
we risk putting the
recovery in jeopardy.
We’re telling it like it is
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of UNISON by
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The sheer extent of the
damage caused by the
WENDY
coalition government’s savage
NICHOLS
REGIONAL public spending cuts is now
CONVENOR clear for all to see.
Members throughout our
ls
Advertising enquiries
W.Nicho region and beyond have been
Vishal K Desour
T: 01727 739 195
mobilised to protest at the scale of the cuts
E: [email protected]
which are the most severe in living
Design and art editing
memory.
Mike Wright, Heena Gudka
and Sarah Ryan
Leading economists across the world
T: 01727 739 185
have lined up to condemn the policy,
E: [email protected]
warning that the cuts risk plunging
Printed by
the country back into
Unison Print
UNISO
recession.
Copyright reproduction in whole
or
ACTIVEN
The government has peddled
part by any means without
written permission of the
!
the lie that such unprecedented
publisher is strictly forbidden.
UNISON and the publisher
cuts are unavoidable.
accept no responsibility for
errors, omissions or the
But the reality is that the
consequences thereof.
© UNISON 2010
people least able to afford it are
being forced to pick up the bill for
CUT TO
THE BONE
the bankers’ greed. Respected
P10 LIVIN
Andrew G WITH MYSE
and tells Carver ‘comes out’ LF
of its huge
as autistic
impact on
his life
THE MAG
AZINE
FOR MEM
BERS
IN YORK
P20 THE
Lindis PercyPEACEMONGER’S
jailed and has been arreste
WAR
assaulted
d, fined,
for her beliefs
SHIRE
AND HUMB
ERSID
P32 THE
Ministe CON-DEMS
but it’s ars say there’s no ’ BIG LIE
alterna
con, says
Paul Routle tive,
dge
E
WINT
WWW ER 2010
.UNISON-Y | ISSUE
7 | £3
ORKS.ORG.
UK
Key servic
a skeleton es will operate
Cameron’s staff – so muchwith
for
‘Big Socie
ty’ p4 &22
As a united union,
we have to shout out
at every opportunity
to explain that there is
an alternative to this
miserable, no-hope, no
ideas future that the
coalition has painted
for us. Let’s have a
windfall tax on
bankers’ bonuses,
let’s have a Robin
Hood tax and let’s
tackle the rich tax
cheats and the nondoms.
Our priority must be
to fight these cuts and
to protect jobs and
services.
We will fight with,
and for, those who
rely on those services.
We will stand in the
way of this coalition’s
nightmare vision.
independent bodies such as the Institute
for Fiscal Studies are clear that it is the
poorest in society who will be most badly
affected by public sector cuts. Families
with children will be the biggest losers as
the government takes the axe to the
welfare state, and women will
overwhelmingly be the most badly
affected people in society.
The grotesque injustice of making
ordinary families pay twice as much as
multi-millionaire bankers to deal with the
national debt is outraging the public. The
private sector caused the economic crisis,
not hard working public sector workers,
and UNISON is making sure that the
truth is heard loud and clear. Members
have responded magnificently to our
rallies and demonstrations throughout
the region and we will continue to fight
this injustice by whatever means are
available to us.
04 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
NEWS
Frontline workers paying
for reckless super-rich
fabric of
communities
throughout Britain.
Mass meetings of
members in local
government across
Yorkshire and
Humberside will
determine what they
think about the cuts and what they are
prepared to do in
terms of industrial
action.
Regional secretary
Cliff Williams said:
“It is very clear our
members and the
general public are
deeply angry about
this ideological
attack on ordinary
working people.
“Our campaign
will focus on the fact
that essential public
sector service
providers are
picking up the bill
for the reckless
greed of super-rich
bankers.
“As leading
economists across
the globe have lined
up to explain, these
cuts will devastate
the private sector as
much as the public
sector.
“While the
bankers hand each
other multi-million
pound bonuses out
of the taxpayers’
bail-out, the most
vulnerable people
are being punished
for their greed.”
Margaret Thomas,
UNISON’s head of
local government in
Image: Martin Jenkinson
UNISON members
across the region
have woken up to
the shock of
redundancy notices
from their local
government and
NHS employers.
Front-line
workers delivering
essential services
are being targeted
by the coalition
government in the
most savage attack
on the public sector
in living memory.
Thousands of
trade unionists
descended on
Sheffield last month
to protest at a gross
injustice which will
plunge the economy
into recession and
destroy the social
We’re not just going to sit back and take it – UNISON’s deputy regional
convenor John Campbell addresses last month’s TUC rally in Sheffield
the region, accused
the Liberal
Democrat leader
and deputy prime
minister Nick
“Cleggzilla” Clegg
of breathtaking
hypocrisy.
She said: “In his
general election
campaign, Clegg
and his party
argued against these
savage and pointless
Tory cuts and now
they are its biggest
supporters.
“The Prime
Minister seeks to
push our economy
off the edge of the
cliff. There are more
than four
unemployed people
chasing every
vacant post across
the country.
“This will see the
dole queues rise to
record levels and
condemn a whole
generation of people
to poverty and
insecurity.
“UNISON and
our fellow trade
unionists will not
stand by and allow
this outrage to be
committed. We will
fight against it in
every way
possible.”
Key services axed –
page 22
Running hard
to keep ahead
Recruitment has
shown a steady
increase in the region
as public service
workers fear the
impact of pay cuts
and redundancy.
UNISON
membership in
Yorkshire and
Humberside, which
stands at around
132,000, has grown
by 3.2 per cent in the
first nine months of
2010.
That is just above
the 3 per cent target,
but Dave Mitchell,
regional manager
finance and
resources, warns that
membership is
bound to be hit by
the cutbacks. “We
will have to run very
hard to stand still,”
he said.
Dave revealed that
around 2,500 new
members had signed
up on-line, so that
employees clearly
realised the benefits
of trade unionism.
He urged activists
to redouble their
efforts to recruit
members face-toface. “Inevitably the
cuts have given the
union a much more
high profile. I think
we should use media
opportunities –
together with
demonstrations,
marches and rallies as a recruitment
tool.”
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 05
Image: Roger Boardman
Stef’s young life-savers are taught to keep cool in a crisis
I’ve got the answer Miss!
They are the little
black and white
army of volunteers
seen at most public
gatherings tending
to the sick and
injured.
But where do
these St John
Ambulance life-
savers learn the
skills needed to do
their vital work?
Bradford local
government branch
convenor Stefnie
Krzyszczyk has
been teaching firstaid to young St John
Ambulance trainees
for 11 years.
She saw a
newspaper advert in
Keighley asking for
volunteers and took
her five-year-old
daughter, Gaby, to
join the “Badgers”
and began teaching
herself.
Now Gaby, 17, is
still going every
Wednesday night
with her mum to
prepare the next
generation of St John
Ambulance workers.
Steph said: “We
prepare them from a
very young age to
prioritise
emergencies.
Someone who is
gushing blood may
not be in as much
danger as someone
who has collapsed.
“We train the
young people how
to make the right
judgement in a
crisis.
“I think everyone
should learn first
aid. We want people
of all ages, and
especially young
people, to take part
in this life-saving
organisation.”
If you would like more
information about how to get
involved with St John
Ambulance in Yorkshire and
Humberside, contact Stef on
01274 432291.
Taxpayers foot £385,000 bill for war on refuse workers
Leeds council spent
more than £2.6m in its
attempts last year to
break the successful
11-week strike by the
city's refuse workers.
Despite saving
more than £2m in
wages and fuel costs,
the council ended up
with a deficit of
£385,000, a bill footed
by council tax payers.
The 600 members
of UNISON and GMB
walked out on
September 7 last year
over plans by the
council to axe wages
by up to £6,000 - a
third of their pay.
The strikers won
widespread public
support.
The council, run at
the time by a coalition
of Conservatives and
Liberal Democrats,
lavished funds on its
attempts to undermine
the action and break
the strikers' morale.
Dozens of
contractors
were
hired in
a futile
attempt to
maintain services.
Household rubbish
piled up in the streets.
The strike ended
when refuse workers
accepted an
agreement in which
the pay cuts were
abandoned in return
for changes in
working practices.
Figures now
released show that the
council saved £1.968m
in wages, and £250,000
in fuel costs.
But the
council
spent
£2.349m on contractors
to break the strike. It
also paid out £254,000
on communications,
including anti-strike
propaganda sent to
every household in
the city, which has a
population of 700,000.
The ConDem
coalition lost control
of the council in local
elections in May.
Labour, backed by the
Greens, are now in
control. Observers
believe a public
backlash against the
council's treatment of
the refuse workers
played a part in the
election result.
A Leeds refuse
worker who took his
own life was said to
have been suffering
financial problems.
Alan Cakebread, a
UNISON member
who was 50 and lived
in the south Leeds
community of
Beeston, was found
dead on April 17. Mr
Cakebread, a married
man, took part in the
11-week strike.
06 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
NEWS
Let’s wage pay war
Getting our message over at the TUC
The movement must
campaign for a
substantial increase
in the national
minimum wage and
a fair rate of pay for
apprentices, Sue
Highton (pictured
first left) told
delegates at the TUC
conference in
Manchester.
Sue, an NEC
member and former
UNISON president,
said the minimum
wage was vital to
low-paid workers
and one of the
genuine
achievements of the
last Labour
government.
“It is a vitally
important line of
defence against inwork poverty. And it
provides us with a
platform from which
we can push for
further advances
towards a proper
living wage for all.”
Sue, secretary of
Sheffield community
health branch,
warned however
that the movement
needed to ensure
that the national
minimum wage
delivered in harsh
economic conditions
as well as in the
better times. Unions
needed to be
resolute in their
response to the
employers’
organisations which
continued to call for
rates to be frozen.
A fair rate for the
job for apprentices
also had to be a
priority.
“We want to see an
increase in the
number of
apprenticeships
available in the
public services.
And in the interests
of fairness and
simplicity, apprentice
rates across the UK
should rise to the
same level as existing
youth rates.”
Gold-plated nonsense
Company directors
get “gold-plated”
pensions, not public
sector workers,
regional convenor
Wendy Nichols
(pictured second left)
told the Labour Party
conference.
The party had won
many significant
victories over
pensions, but now it
had a new battle to
win over the
propaganda spread
by the Tories and the
Liberal Democrats to
undermine public
service workers.
“We’re all familiar
with the lurid
headlines in the
newspapers about
gold-plated
pensions. Never
much detail, never
many facts, just
assertions.
“Just the lazy
assumption that
because it’s public, it
must be inefficient, it
must be
unaffordable.”
She told delegates
that the scheme she
belonged to in North
Yorkshire had 12,000
members – more
than three quarters
of whom got less
than £5000 a year.
Less than three per
cent got £20,000 a
year.
“But that’s the
kind of ‘gold-plated
pension’ that
Cameron and Vince
Cable tell us we can’t
afford.
“Of course, there
are some gold-plated
pensions out there.
The average for the
directors of the UK’s
top companies is
£200,000. There’s a
bit of a gap isn’t
there? £4000 a week
for some. £20 a week
for our people.
“When you see
and hear people
talking about goldplated public sector
pensions, they have
to be challenged.
It just isn’t true.”
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: WELL DONE JULIE!
I wish to express my utmost gratitude and thanks to UNISON for its support over a recent issue at work. My
union representative Julie Donnelly at Harrogate District Hospital has been a tower of strength. Her support
has been outstanding. At a time when a set of circumstances in my life were causing me distress, Julie
attended to every detail of my inquiry in a highly professional manner. I knew I could contact her at any time
and her support was always there. I have been a midwife for 12 years and I had often considered
changing to the Royal College of Midwives. However the support I received has not only secured
my membership with you, it has also encouraged some of my colleagues to join UNISON.
Tina Bucktrout, Cawood, Selby
SEND YOUR LETTERS AND STORY IDEAS TO THE EDITOR
The Editor, UNISON ACTIVE, Commerce House, Wade Lane, Leeds LS2 8NJ OR EMAIL: [email protected]
Accident?
An apology won’t pay the bills.
UNISON is here to get you compensation
for everything your accident has cost you.
The legal service is FREE and you will
always keep 100% of the compensation.
You can claim for any accident – at work,
on the road or on holiday. Your family is
also covered.
UNISON’s lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors,
have been working with UNISON members
over many years. This experience helps
you to get the maximum compensation
you are entitled to in the shortest
possible time.
In 2009, 97% of UNISON members
surveyed would recommend Thompsons.
So if you or a member of your family have
had an accident call UNISONdirect on
0845 355 0845 (Textphone 0800 0 967 968)
Conditions apply. Accidents outside of the UK are covered where we can pursue the case through
the courts in England/Wales. Family members are covered for accidents outside of the workplace.
08 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
OBITUARY
GUENTER SCHOBER: ACTIVE TO THE LAST
Peter Lazenby tells the fascinating story of UNISON
activist Guenter Schober who has died aged 82. Despite
half a century working in the public and private sectors
in the UK, Guenter, who fled from the Nazis aged 11,
was denied British citizenship on three occasions
NISON has lost a
committed and
long-serving
activist in
Yorkshire with the
death of Guenter Schober.
Guenter was born in the
Sudetenland in
Czechoslovakia in 1928. When
Nazi Germany invaded in
1939 Guenter, aged 11, fled
with his mother and younger
brother to Prague. His father
and elder brother escaped to
Britain. When the Nazis
invaded the rest of
Czechoslovakia Guenter, his
brother Helli, then 6, and their
mother Hedwig were helped
to escape by the Red Cross,
travelling north through
Poland in a cattle truck
eventually reaching Britain.
Siddeley, Doncasters
Monkbridge, and West
Yorkshire Foundries, at a time
when Leeds was a centre of
engineering excellence.
U
During the war Guenter’s
father Adolf worked in a
textile factory making
parachutes. His elder brother
Paul became a tank driver
with the Free Czech Army,
eventually returning to
Eastern Europe to fight
alongside the Red Army to
liberate his country from the
Nazis. He remained there
after the war.
Guenter’s family settled in
Liversedge, between Leeds
and Huddersfield. Guenter
trained to become a skilled
engineer, working at firms in
Leeds such as Hawker
SKILLED ENGINEER
SHOP STEWARD
GUENTER
AND HIS
BROTHER
AND
MOTHER
TRAVELLED
NORTH
THROUGH
POLAND
IN A CATTLE
TRUCK
He met and married Eunice,
and the couple had two
daughters, and lived at
Woodhouse in Leeds. With
the virtual destruction of the
engineering industry under
Margaret Thatcher in the
1980s, he was made
redundant, as were hundreds
of thousands more. Guenter
became a porter at Leeds
General Infirmary, where he
joined the National Union of
Public Employees, later to
merge with the Confederation
of Health Service Employees
(COHSE) and the National
and Local Government
Officers’ Association
(NALGO) to form UNISON.
As an engineer Guenter
had been a shop steward in
the Amalgamated
Engineering Union, and he
continued his union activism
with NUPE and UNISON as a
shop steward and as a
delegate to Leeds trades
council, when trades councils
wielded considerable political
influence.
Politically, Guenter was
close to the Communist Party
of Great Britain. He applied
three times for British
citizenship and three times he
was refused. No reason was
ever given.
After retirement in 1992
Guenter delighted in passing
on his decades of
accumulated wisdom to a
new generation of trades
union activists who sought
his advice. They included his
daughter Nadia, a UNISON
activist working for West
Yorkshire probation service.
DIED PEACEFULLY
Guenter and his family
celebrated his 82nd birthday
on September 3 with a rooftop
picnic at the nursing home
into which he had moved due
to deteriorating health, and
where he died peacefully on
September 23. He died with
the nationality with which he
had been born – as a citizen of
Czechoslovakia, despite
having lived in Britain for
more than 70 years, and
having worked in the
country’s private and public
sectors for half a century.
Guenter’s funeral took
place on October 1, and was
conducted most movingly by
his young grandchildren.
Representatives of the trades
union movement, and of
Leeds trades union council,
attended.
He leaves daughters Nadia
and Karen, and five
grandchildren and is also
survived by his younger
brother, Helli.
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 09
MEDIA REVIEW
‘RED ED’ AND THE CUTS
Newspapers salivated over Labour’s ‘Battle of the Brothers’ and the massive cuts
to public services, says UNISON’s head of press and broadcasting Mary Maguire
N
BITTER TEARS
Red Ed was the obvious line
for the right wingers, as soon
as it was known that union
members had the temerity to
vote. The Sun was in its
element: “David sees Red Ed
mist” and “I’m ready to ed off”.
Anonymous “sources” talked
of “betrayal” (Express), while
the Indy spoke of “backstabbing” and the Mirror
reckoned that the “bitter rift over
Iraq” had spilled into the open.
The Mail told us of the
“tears, anger and betrayal”, the
“absolute fury” and “bitter
tears” of David’s violinist wife.
No doubt she didn’t want to
play second fiddle. Whereas,
the Guardian and Telegraph
analysed how Ed would feel
having usurped David’s shoein, in a “What have I done to
my brother?” analysis.
A complex voting system
snookered even the finest
media minds. Many seasoned
hacks couldn’t contain their
glee as the BBC’s irritating
Nick Robinson called it for
David after the first round.
It took the Yorkshire press to
restore a sense of gravitas to
the reportage. The Yorkshire
Post pointed out that Ed was
the third Labour leader with
Yorkshire connections
(Gaitskell, Wilson). The Star
proudly proclaimed the
election increases “South
Yorkshire’s political
standing”.
The Yorks Free Press
reassured us that “the Milibands
went from back-stabbing and
voting against each other to
hugging and kissing”. Ah all’s well, that ends well.
MEDIA CIRCUS
But dear reader, no news is
good news. The dark clouds of
massive spending and job cuts
are upon us. Every local
newspaper, every local radio
station, every regional TV
channel has its daily cuts report.
Telephone number bonuses
for bankers were reported (FT
et al) and telephone number
cuts for council employees (all
local media). Councils
suddenly discovered a fashion
for sacking their entire
workforces and re-engaging
them on worse terms.
Yorkshire was no exception.
The Sheffield Telegraph
reported on its council
sending redundancy notices to
its workforce and ITV North
revealed Hull City doing the
same. At Kirklees (ITV) a
UNISON anti-cuts protest
took place in the shadow of
Harold Wilson’s statue.
The failure of council
contractor Connaught and
ensuing protest caught the
imagination of the entire
d
ot since Cain and
Abel, had the
newspapers been
gifted such a story.
Like a Shakespearean
drama, it was a tale of two
brothers, two loving brothers,
who craved the same job. It
was a story so great, the
headlines wrote themselves.
THE BBC’S
IRRITATING
NICK
ROBINSON
CALLED IT
FOR DAVID
MILIBAND
AFTER THE
FIRST
ROUND
d
Mary Maguire ‘David Miliband’s
violinist wife
didn’t want to play
second fiddle’
media circus. The sedate
Malton Advertiser was
vaguely excited by a Europewide protest against the cuts.
The collective strength of
the TUC annual gathering
sparked that old chestnut – the
general strike. A firm stand
on opposing public service
cuts, led by UNISON, was the
signal for the media to go into
hysterical over-drive (all). A
Times leader depicted Dave
Prentis as a raptor.
The York Press asked
hopefully: “Could there be a
second winter of discontent?”
The Hull Daily Mail and
others published pictures of
workers’ defiantly wearing “I
am frontline” badges.
Over in Leeds, private
companies were refusing to
take on new staff (YEP) and
the coalition government was
slightly bovvered.
But on the horizon - the
Mail, Sun, Express and
Telegraph - started to bare
their piranha-like teeth over
benefit cuts to middle
England. We live in hope. I
10 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
FEATURE AUTISM
LIVING WITH MYSELF
Image: Jim Varney
UNISON member and local government worker Andrew Carver has a degree in
mathematics. He is also autistic. For many years he tried to conceal his condition
from his colleagues. But now, after long deliberation, he has decided to “come
out” and reveal how autism affects his relationships at home and at work
was brought up in a
working class family, the
second of four children.
From a young age, I was
always the loner with
few schoolyard friends. I
played by myself, mostly.
Interacting with other
children just seemed too
difficult. I pursued eagerly
anything that took my
interest. At six I memorised
the timetables of all service
buses in Bradford, and could
recite them at will. Teachers
I
saw me as “average”,
someone who lacked interest
in schoolwork – because I was
bored and seemed detached. I
was the one in the class who
would give the wrong answer
because I could not
understand the question. I
then felt stupid. I always felt
stupid. Then, at thirteen I had
mathematics with Mr
Chapman. We had a private
chat, and he talked to me in a
way that no adult had talked
to me before. He connected
TEACHERS SAW ANDREW AS ‘AVERAGE’....
L Above: Andrew
‘connected’ with
a maths teacher
with me, and made me feel like
I was a person. I later passed
ten ‘O’ levels, 3 ‘A’ levels and
achieved a university degree in
mathematics. I am now
married with two teenage
children.
Throughout my childhood I
knew I was different, but I
never knew why. At university
I found the answer, and found
out about myself. I am autistic.
When you think of autism, you
may think of the child who
rocks and bangs his head on
HE WENT ON TO GAIN A MATHS DEGREE...
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 11
Officials tell us we have an
Autistic Spectrum Disorder. I
refuse to accept that I am
disordered. It is a condition I
have had since birth; a
disability recognised under
the Disability Discrimination
Act. Yet less than 1 in 10 of us
will be in paid employment.
Finding work when changes
in routine may be upsetting or
even succeeding at the
interview stage is a real
barrier. I am one of the lucky
ones, working in local
government.
I have mild autism which
for me makes it less
pronounced. It is still there,
just beneath the surface, and
which I always feel. Some
days I go in and out of being
autistic. I may become
agitated at changes in routine,
sometimes have problems
with communication and
perception, and may have
difficulty understanding what
other people think and feel;
which together with my own
social difficulties “disable” me
each and every week. Having
a higher intelligence than
Carol Vorderman, I can
BODY LANGUAGE
In conversations I may
appear self-absorbed or
egotistical. I do not always
respond positively when
someone says something;
instead appearing cold and
indifferent. My typical blank
persona can make people talk
to me in simpler language as
the conversation continues, as
they think I am failing to
comprehend them, even
though I may comprehend
them perfectly. I have a habit
of talking on and on about
one subject with little regard
to the rest of the conversation.
You may find this annoying.
I have difficulty in fully
understanding the meaning
of your body language – such
as your facial expressions or
gestures, or even the tone of
your voice. After explaining
something I feel an urge to
repeat myself – which I
cannot always stop. My wife
finds this irritating, telling me
she understood the “first
time”. I have difficulty
figuring out what other
people already know and
what I need to tell them, and
you may think I am being
arrogant or scornful. You will
see me as childish when I
seem to over-react in some
situations, such as when I feel
you are not listening to me, or
when things are not “going
right”. You will see my
ANDREW HAS MILD AUTISM....
DURING MY
CHILDHOOD
I KNEW
I WAS
DIFFERENT,
BUT I NEVER
KNEW WHY
d
frustration at this, over which
I have no control. This will be
driven by some degree of
anger. I will often talk to
myself, sometimes out loud –
even at work; yet I do not
always know it.
Sometimes I can find it hard
to make sense of things going
on around me. Reading subtle
social signals can be
impossible. This makes it hard
to do things that you take for
granted like understanding
other people and taking part
in groups. I only really feel
comfortable when I am part of
a small group. My wife knows
never to hint at anything. I
never “get” hints.
TOO INSENSITIVE
I do not have the same
emotions you do, or more
precisely do not show them in
ways you expect. I usually
seem too insensitive and you
may see me as cold and
heartless – even though deep
inside I will feel as you would
feel. You will wrongly see me
as being callous because at
M
REAL BARRIER
rationalise my own autistic
traits and foresee potential
situations where I will get
agitated, which I either avoid
or develop my own coping
strategies. Until you really get
to know me, you would not
know I am autistic at all.
d
the wall and does not make
eye contact. You may think of
the “Rain Man” savant who
does complex calculations in
his head but otherwise gets
easily agitated. What you may
not realise is that 1 in 100
people have autism. We are
people you will encounter
every day – perhaps at work
or in the supermarket – but
you will not know it. There
are many things you might
think about us, but often they
are not true.
AutismChildren
“Autism can normally be
diagnosed in children at around
the age of two. In many cases,
professional health workers may
spot the signs of autism during
normal childhood health checks
and this may result in the child
being formally diagnosed.
If you think your child may have
autism, ask your GP to refer them
to a consultant or diagnostic team
with a good understanding of the
condition.” – NHS.
The National Autistic Society
offers advice on diagnosis.
HE CAN WRONGLY SEEM COLD AND HEARTLESS...
12 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
FEATURE AUTISM
Image: Jim Varney
M
times I seem deliberately not
to understand you or
sympathise with you. I do not
always notice when my wife
is upset or has something on
her mind, or needs someone
to talk to. When I do notice, I
can still seem to ignore her
and her feelings, despite my
best efforts to the contrary. I
then get so mad with myself
afterwards. I am often mad
with myself.
REAL DIFFICULTY
I have my comfort zones. I
like to be in familiar
situations, where I know what
is going on around me, and
where I can predict the likely
chain of events. I like things
to be as simple as possible. I
can get agitated at modern
electronic technology, such as
DVD recorders and mobile
phones. My wife has to record
for me any TV programme I
want to view at a later date. I
do not own a mobile phone.
I have real difficulty
putting my trust in you, or
anyone else. When I do
decide to trust someone I give
my total trust. For me, it has
to be all or nothing; I can’t
only half-trust someone. It is
no surprise I then sometimes
get hurt and you may wonder
why I never seem to learn
from the experience.
YOUR ATTENTION
If you knew me, you would
probably notice that I seem to
want your attention – my way
of demanding re-assurance.
This is how my own autism
affects me. You may wrongly
see this is as insecurity. What I
always want is to be accepted
and valued as a person.
Having autism does not mean
I am sub-human or a nonperson or a bad person.
Understanding autism is fine,
but no substitute to
understanding me, the person.
The next time you think of
autistic children, remember
they grow up. The next time
you get furious with someone
because they just “don’t get”
something simple, even
though they can do some
things that are complicated,
remember us. The next time
you see someone flapping
their hands in front of their
face and making odd noises,
remember us. Autistic
children grow up into autistic
adults. We do not always
appear the same as autistic
children, though we may have
much in common with them.
We did not decide to have
autism, but you can decide
whether to accept us, see
ANDREW LIKES FAMILIAR SITUATIONS....
L Above: At home
with wife Heidi
and children
Darren and Louise
above this, and see us as a
person first. Autistic adults
exist and live in this society,
but not necessarily connect to
it normally, every day. We are
out there, trying to live.
Remember us. I
AutismAdults
“Getting a diagnosis of autism in
adulthood can be a mixed blessing
and some people decide that they
are happy with self-diagnosis. The
usual way to get a formal diagnosis
is to go to your GP and ask for a
referral to a psychiatrist or clinical
psychologist, preferably one with
experience of diagnosing autism.”
- NHS
The National Autistic Society (NAS)
offers tips on how to present your
case so that your doctor can see
why you might have autism and why
having a diagnosis could be helpful.
HE HAS DIFFICULTY TRUSTING PEOPLE...
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for UNISON members
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is a trading name of BDML Connect. Thornside Pet Healthcare Insurance is underwritten by AXA Insurance UK PLC. All these companies are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
14 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
Image: Steve Morgan
FEATURE OUR JOBS
AT THE SHARP END
Shop steward Darren Jones sees life in the raw as part of his job as a cleaner at
Castleford bus station. Peter Lazenby finds out what Darren does for £750 a month
arren Jones hasn’t
got the most
pleasant of jobs.
It can involve
being abused by
drunks and contact with
blood and other bodily fluids.
He has to handle hypodermics
and ‘sharps’ - needles used by
drug addicts.
He has to have a knowledge
of chemicals and how to
handle them, including
dealing with spillages. There’s
a potential for violence and
there’s verbal abuse.
So what is Darren’s job?
Paramedic? Nurse?
No, he’s a cleaner at a bus
station in West Yorkshire. His
take-home pay for putting up
with all the above, and more,
D
is £750 a month. After paying
out £325 for lodgings it
doesn’t leave a lot.
SAFETY REP
Darren, 43, is a UNISON
activist. He’s a shop steward,
a health and safety rep, and as
a gay man he’s involved in
the union’s regional Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender group.
He’s employed by Metro West Yorkshire Passenger
Transport Executive - at the
bus station in Castleford.
Darren is one of a team,
two full-time and one parttime, responsible for
Castleford bus station. He’s
full-time and has been at
Castleford for five years.
Above: Darren
wanted more
of a challenge
Before that he cleaned at
Wakefield bus station, moving
there from the confectionery
firm Nestle.
“I really enjoyed that, but
these posts came up and I
wanted a bit more of a
challenge,” he said. Castleford
bus station is used by many
thousands of passengers a
week and cleaning up after
them isn’t as simple a job as it
sounds.
Training and qualifications
are demanded nowadays
through the British Institute of
Cleaning Science. There are
two levels which have to be
passed, and performance
standards have to be met on a
day to day basis. There is also
responsibility for safety issues.
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 15
VERBAL ABUSE
Some of the problems the
cleaners face have been
created by cuts. “They took
security away in 2005,” said
Darren.
“They felt there was no
need for them. Unfortunately
the security people hadn’t
been reporting incidents.
They’d been a bit lax, so
management thought we
didn’t have any, but that
wasn’t the case.
“As I say we have all kinds
of people coming in. We have
people coming in drinking.
Some can be quite abusive,
especially when they’re
intoxicated. We have to clean
up after them too.” Darren has
never been assaulted, but the
verbal abuse is intimidating
enough.
There are other problems
too. The cleaning staff have no
showers and no adequate
lockers for their work gear.
They have to change in a
storage area.
“It’s unacceptable,” said
Darren. “We get chemical
spills and bodily fluids on our
clothes. It soaks into the
clothing and we just have to
carry on for the rest of the day.
“We have to take our work
clothes home and clean them
ourselves. We have to take
them home like that, sitting
next to passengers on the bus.
It’s not very nice.”
WORK CLOTHES
Darren became a health and
safety rep a few months back.
“UNISON was encouraging
people to become workplace
health and safety reps, and
two or three of us came
forward. It is something that
interested me,” he said.
The union is pressing West
Yorkshire PTE to take action
over what he says is a very
unhealthy, unsanitary
situation.
“We have raised this with
Metro,” he said. “We have
asked for some facilities to
store our work clothes at the
bus station, or for a laundry
service.
“It’s not just contaminated
equipment. It’s contaminated
personal clothing as well.
There are no showers. There’s
a hand basin but it’s not
adequate for a full wash and
fluids do soak through to the
skin.
“The health and safety reps
last month submitted a report
that we compiled jointly to
put to the health and safety
committee, and hopefully at
the next meeting we will be
discussing how to solve the
issues.”
One of the few bonuses of
the job is free travel on buses
and trains in West Yorkshire.
“That’s one good thing – I will
give them that,” said Darren.
SOCIAL NETWORKS
Darren has a keen interest in
computers, and uses the
UNISON website to pursue
his work on health and safety
issues.
“I like to get onto the
internet, social networks. I go
through the UNISON website
That’s the official side.
Added to that is the fact that
bus stations do not attract
only passengers.
“We get homeless people
coming in,” said Darren.
“They use the facilities, the
toilets, and sometimes hang
around at night. There are
drug addicts. We have had
syringes left in the toilets. We
have to clean them up – we’re
supplied with sharps kits.”
WE GET
CHEMICAL
SPILLS
AND
BODILY
FLUIDS
ON OUR
CLOTHES
for health and safety
information.”
As part of his work as a
member of the Yorkshire and
Humberside Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
group, he recently wrote an
article for his union branch’s
monthly magazine Hotline
about the work of the group.
“I’m trying to encourage
our members to take an
interest in setting up our own
branch self-organised group,
and ensuring everyone is
treated fairly and protected
against discrimination,” he
said. He is active in the Gay
Pride movement, helping
organise events and run stalls.
People like Darren make
UNISON what it is. It is
thanks to his efforts, and
many more like him, that our
workplaces will become
healthier, safer and more
civilised places to be. SafetyFirst
Safety representatives are
appointed by UNISON not the
employer. Sometimes they will
also be stewards.
Each branch also has a health
and safety officer who will act as
a link between safety
representatives and the rest of
the branch, and co-ordinate the
activities of all safety
representatives.
The health and safety rep will
also give information and
support, and co-ordinate branchwide campaigns.
All UNISON members are entitled
to have a safety committee
within their place of
employment.
16 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
FEATURE LABOUR LAW
civil liberties. We were told
that a commission would be
established “to investigate the
creation of a British Bill of
Rights that incorporates and
builds on all our obligations
under the European
Convention on Human
Rights, ensures that those
rights continue to be
enshrined in British law, and
protects and extends British
liberties”. This was part of the
price extracted by the Liberal
Democrats for their marriage
of convenience.
The simple point is that
“our obligations under the
European Convention on
Human Rights…” include
union rights and freedoms
under Article 11 of the
European Convention - the
freedom of association.
EUROPE
TO THE
RESCUE
LANDMARK CASE
David Cameron might find it impossible to emulate Mrs Thatcher
and push through plans for extremist anti-union legislation.
Richard Arthur explains why Europe may come to our aid
s David Cameron
implements his
savage programme
of cuts in the
public sector, the
predictable news emerges
that he is planning to make
Britain’s strike laws - already
amongst the toughest in
Europe - even tougher.
There is apparently no
place in his “big society” for
unions and their members.
Proposals include raising
the support required for
industrial action in a ballot
A
from a simple majority of
those voting to 40 per cent of
the affected workers. Other
plans include weakening
regulations prohibiting the
supply of agency workers to
break strikes, reducing the
period of protection from
dismissal for taking industrial
action to eight weeks and
even making unions liable for
the consequences of strike
action.
These plans do not sit
happily alongside the
coalition’s commitments on
Above: Rulings
outside Europe
affect judgments
in Strasbourg
Richard Arthur
In the past the European
Court of Human Rights in
Strasbourg has been reluctant
to give effect to Article 11. It
has left member states to
decide upon the means of
achieving an effective “right
to be heard” (but no more) for
unions.
That all changed in 2008
with the landmark case of
Demir and Baykara v Turkey.
That case turned on the
decision of a Turkish
municipality to renege on a
collective agreement. When
the Turkish courts ruled that
no union of civil servants had
authority to enter into
collective agreements, the
union complained to the
Strasbourg court saying that
their rights under Article 11
had been infringed.
The court agreed, but what
is important are the reasons
for its conclusion.
It started by reviewing a
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 17
UNION RIGHTS
There is a mass of decisions
and commentaries on union
rights, and particularly the
right to strike, from the
supervisory bodies
overseeing ILO Convention
Nos. 87 and 98. The ILO’s
Committee of Experts has
already condemned legal
requirements such as
threshold percentages for
support in a ballot, the fact of
industrial action amounting
to a breach of the contract of
employment and therefore
grounds for dismissal and
civil liability for the
consequences of industrial
action. It has considered the
UK’s industrial action laws on
a number of occasions. Each
time, it has found them to be
in breach of ILO Convention
No. 87.
STRIKE ACTION
The European Social Charter
is supervised by the
European Committee of
Social Rights. In 2002, the
committee said Britain did
not guarantee the right to
strike in accordance with
Article 6 of the charter, that
the permitted scope and
procedural requirements for
industrial action were
restrictive, that the
consequences for unions
when action was found to be
unlawful were serious and
that workers had inadequate
protection from dismissal.
Similar findings were made
by the committee in relation
to the UK in 2000, 2004 and
2006. The committee’s 2006
report was then adopted by
the Committee on Economic
and Social Rights in its
“Report on the UK’s
implementation of the
International Covenant on
Economic and Social Rights”
in June 2008.
The Demir and Baykara
case was about collective
bargaining. But the principles
in it have been embedded
and developed in a number
of subsequent Strasbourg
cases in relation to industrial
action.
EXISITING LAWS
There will be opportunities to
seek declarations that
changes Mr Cameron
tries to introduce
are
incompatible
with Article
11 of the
European
whole host of international
labour law instruments - ILO
Convention Nos. 87 and 98 on
the Freedom of Association
and Protection of the Right to
Organise and the Right to
Organise and Collective
Bargaining, the International
Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, the European
Social Charter and the EU
Charter, saying that the
practice in states party to the
European Convention was
also relevant.
The court then said that its
previous case law should be
“reconsidered” so as to “take
account of the perceptible
evolution in such matters, in
both international and
domestic legal systems”. It
was now compulsory for the
court “to take into account the
elements of international law
other than the European
Convention, the interpretation
of such elements by
competent organs, and the
practice of European states”
in defining the meaning of
rights under the convention.
THERE IS
NO PLACE
IN DAVID
CAMERON’S
‘BIG
SOCIETY’
FOR UNIONS
AND THEIR
MEMBERS
Convention. There are other
opportunities to challenge
the existing laws on collective
bargaining and industrial
action. Typically, the ideal
mechanism will be to file a
claim in the Strasbourg court
and a complaint at the ILO
simultaneously. That way, by
the time the Strasbourg court
determines the matter, it will
have the benefit of the ILO’s
conclusions, which it is now
compelled to take into
account. This is what the
RMT has done with its
current challenge to the preballot notification
requirements and the ban on
secondary action.
VERY DIFFERENT
The reaction from the British
courts has not been
encouraging, starting with
the court of appeal finding
that the UK industrial action
laws comply with Article 11
of the European Convention
in the Metrobus case. But I
strongly believe that the
position will be very different
when the Strasbourg court
comes to decide the RMT’s
application.
Mr Cameron talks of
“continuing to enshrine
Convention rights in British
law”. The Strasbourg court
has now declared with new
vigour that union rights including the right to
collective bargaining
and the right to strike are convention rights.
Like other Convention
rights, they should also
be regarded as
“enshrined in British law”.
Practice what you preach,
Mr Cameron. Richard Arthur is head of trade
union law at Thompsons Solicitors
18 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
FEATURE BEST PRACTICE
LOGGED ON AND CLUED UP
UNISON’s Yorkshire ambulance branch has hit upon a simple method of ensuring
grievance and disciplinary cases are efficiently handled. Barrie Clement reports
T
sure the details of each case
are placed in an electronic
“case folder”.
Above: Bryn
Webster (left) and
his colleagues
female and around 40 per
cent of shop stewards and
branch committee members
are women.
HIGH STANDARD
The branch has set up a
county-wide casework team
which has instant access to the
information and handles
nearly all grievance and
disciplinary cases. The group
of 12 shop stewards is trained
to a high standard to deal
with the problems.
Cases are usually handled
on a geographical basis so
that a member is put in touch
with someone who knows the
patch. If it requires specialist
knowledge – say a
complicated technical case
involving a mechanic - then a
person with the relevant
knowledge and experience
will normally be involved.
Problems peculiar to
women are dealt with by
female reps. Membership of
the branch is 47 per cent
CASEWORK TEAM
here’s a lot to be said
for good oldfashioned pen and
paper, but sometimes
the computer wins
hands down.
Take the questionnaires and
forms generated by grievance
and disciplinary cases.
Documents have to be copied
endlessly so that all the
relevant people – from the
member concerned to the
regional office – are in the
loop. It generates huge
mounds of paper.
The overwhelming majority
of UNISON branches still rely
on this process. It means extra
work for officials and staff –
and with the best will in the
world – it means documents
sometimes go missing.
UNISON’s Yorkshire
ambulance branch prefers to
use the union’s computer
system. Inevitably with 3,000
members the branch generates
a heavy caseload, but it makes
PRINTED
FORMS
MEAN
EXTRA
WORK AND
SOMETIMES
THEY GO
MISSING
The branch is not just made
up of ambulance crews. It
covers call-takers,
dispatchers, maintenance
workers, wages staff and so
on.
It is made up of 75 shop
stewards and convenors
covering all the main
specialisms. Of those, around
40 are accredited under the
Employment Relations Act, 36
are health and safety reps and
18 learner reps.
At the start of each
grievance or disciplinary case,
a form is emailed to the
individual concerned. She or
he fills it in and emails it back
to a central point for
distribution to the casework
team. That way, nothing gets
lost.
Image: Jim Varney
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 19
SEVERE SANCTION
LEGAL OPINION
There was an issue recently in
which a member wanted to
carry over annual leave
because of sickness. It needed
to be resolved through the
grievance procedure.
The electronic form was
filled out and information
from all the meetings was
inputted into the system. The
case remained unresolved
after the grievance procedure
The computer system is
properly backed up if there
are problems and all
documents are confidential.
Only about one or two per
cent of the cases – invariably
the most difficult to resolve are passed up the chain of
command to regional official
Ray Gray. Straightforward
queries or questions which
simply mean looking up
union policy, are usually
passed to the member’s shop
steward.
was exhausted and all the
information was then emailed
to the regional office for
authorisation and forwarded
to Thompsons Solicitors for a
legal opinion.
PROCESSES
WHICH HAVE
TAKEN DAYS
IN THE PAST,
INSTANT UPDATE
CAN NOW
Webster, 42-year-old
BE FINISHED Bryn
secretary of the branch and
IN HOURS
chair of UNISON’s national
ambulance sector, concedes
that there are drawbacks to
the system - especially when
documents need to be signed –
but says that processes which
have taken days in the past
with the use of paperwork,
can now be completed in hours.
“Critical information can’t
be lost, it can be updated
instantly and the member has
access to the information. With
the dramatic reduction in the
amount of paperwork it’s also
much greener,” says Bryn who
is a trained paramedic with 26
years experience in the
ambulance service.
Recently, in a particularly
sensitive case, a member
contacted the branch to tell
them that a Criminal
Records Bureau check had
discovered that he had a
number of serious
convictions which he had
failed to disclose. Despite the
fact that the offences were
committed 20 years ago,
management was insisting
on a formal investigation.
A questionnaire was
emailed to the member
which he filled in and sent
back. The form was emailed
to a case worker to advise
the member on the
disciplinary process. All
meetings were recorded and
the Health Professions
Council was sent all relevant
documents. The individual
was in danger of losing his
job, but management
eventually settled for a
“severe sanction”. The
process took six months
because the member had to
wait for a Health Professions
Council hearing, but the
internal procedures
involving the union and the
trust took just six weeks.
CONSTANT BASIS
The branch has its own
email address
[email protected] and
keeps the email addresses of
all its members so that it can
get in touch on a regular
basis. Says Bryn: “I’m not
saying emails are the be-all
and end-all – we’ve got to
keep in face-to-face touch
with our members on a
constant basis - but our
system for dealing with
queries and casework
certainly seems to work.” 20 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
THE INTERVIEW LINDIS PERCY
THE PEACEMONGER
She’s been arrested 500 times, fined, imprisoned and assaulted for her beliefs
and activities. But there’s no stopping Lindis Percy from doing what she believes
in – fighting for peace. Reporter Peter Lazenby meets a remarkable woman
WE SET UP
A GROUP
WHICH
EXPLODED
THE MYTH
THAT THE
NHS COULD
COPE WITH
A NUCLEAR
ACCIDENT
Image: Jim Varney
Right: Lindis
outside Menwith
Hill US base
indis Percy doesn’t
like being described
as “retired.”
The former nurse,
midwife and health
visitor, who was a member of
NUPE, COHSE and finally
UNISON, instead says she has
“given up paid work”.
Her life is devoted to
campaigning for peace.
But her life is anything but
peaceful.
Lindis, 68, is co-ordinator of
the Campaign for
Accountability of American
Bases (CAAB), a Yorkshirebased group with activists
nationwide, monitoring and
protesting about the activities
L
of American military bases in
Britain.
Her commitment has led to
her being arrested 500 times
for “trespassing” on land
occupied by the United States
military in Britain.
But she and her fellowcampaigners don’t just
protest. They use the law to
fight their cause, repeatedly
taking legal arguments as far
as the House of Lords to show
that the Ministry of Defence is
in breach of British law when
it allows rights of way to be
blocked, the takeover of land,
and the wrongful arrest of
people who protest.
And Lindis and her friends
win. They have forced the
government to accept that
rights of way exist; that the
enclosure of public space for
American military use can be
illegal.
Her own latest victory was
an out-of-court financial
settlement from a member of
the US military who assaulted
her while she was making a
protest at the US base at
Croughton in
Northamptonshire.
In February 2006 she was
accosted by military
personnel. Sustained pressure
to her neck caused a facial
palsy which lasted six weeks.
She took legal action which
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 21
WOMEN’S PROTEST
Lindis is an inspiration to
peace campaigners nationally
and internationally though
she may not like the accolade.
Lindis lives at Harrogate in
North Yorkshire, not far from
the US base at Menwith Hill.
The base, staffed by more
than 1,000 US military
personnel, sits on the North
York Moors and is easily
identifiable by the dozens of
enormous white spheres
which people refer to as “golf
balls.” They are “radomes”
covering antenna linked to
satellites circling the earth
gathering military, economic
and financial information
which is fed to the United
States government. The
activities of the base have
been exposed by Channel 4
TV and in the Press.
Lindis’s campaigning work
began at Greenham Common,
the US base which was the
focus of a long-running
women’s protest in the 1980s
and 1990s. Greenham was the
base for Cruise nuclear
missiles.
Lindis was born in Leeds,
the daughter of an Anglican
Church curate. Dad’s vocation
meant the family moved
frequently.
She married in 1964, and
her husband Christopher
became a priest, an industrial
chaplain ministering to
people in their workplaces.
Lindis became a hospital
was repeatedly blocked by the
courts, but refused to give in.
She finally won a
settlement after four years –
an example of her
determination.
The settlement was a token
£700, which she donated to
CAAB.
THEY TRIED
VERY HARD
IN MANY
WAYS TO
PUT ME OFF,
BUT IT JUST
MADE ME
STRONGER
nurse, and again moved
around the country wherever
her husband’s job took him.
In 1979 the family was in
Southampton, which is where
her commitment to
campaigning really took root.
She witnessed the movement
of nuclear missiles around the
Greenham base, the closure of
roads by police saying there
had been a “traffic accident”
in a futile attempt to disguise
the base's activities.
“We set up a group at
Southampton General
Hospital to explode the myth
that if there was a nuclear
accident the NHS could
cope,” she said. “It couldn’t.
There was a very brave
consultant who spoke out.”
Now with three children,
the family moved back up
North to Hull.
She took a break from her
NHS work to undertake a
course at the peace studies
department at the University
of Bradford.
She re-joined the NHS as a
health visitor, but her work
for the peace movement
redoubled.
It led to repeated arrests
and spells in prison, the first
in Holloway for refusing on
principle to pay a fine for
trespass at an American base.
“They tried very hard to
put me off in many different
ways,” said Lindis. “But it just
made me stronger.”
Lindis and her fellow
campaigners put their beliefs
before their own welfare.
They believe a better world
can be created, a world not
dominated by missiles and
military muscle. Donations can be sent to the Campaign
for Accountability of American Bases, 59
Swarcliffe Road, Harrogate HG1 4QZ.
CurriculumVitae
Background
Born in Leeds 1941
Moved around the country
through her father's work as an
Anglican priest
Student nurse Addenbrookes
Hospital, Cambridge, 1960.
Qualified 1963.
Married Christopher in 1964.
Had William, Thomas and Anna.
Six grandchildren.
Midwife Oldham and District
General Hospital 1976
Health visitor 1981
Southampton
Returned to Yorkshire 1989 to
study, then worked as health
visitor
Ceased paid work 2006, lives in
Harrogate
Long-running protest at
Menwith Hill US base in
Yorkshire evolved into the
launch In 1992 with Anni
Rainbow of the Campaign for
Accountability of American Bases
Taking part
Throughout her working life Lindis
would never join any of the royal
colleges which were open to her
as a nurse, midwife and health
visitor. She stuck with the union –
NUPE, COHSE and finally UNISON.
“The royal colleges were never
really in touch with working life,”
she said. “I attended union branch
meetings and I took part in
industrial action.”
Fourth of July
Every year on July 4 America
celebrates Independence Day –
the day America ceased to be a
British colony and became
independent. Outside Menwith Hill
American military base in
Yorkshire on July 4, protesters
stage “Independence FROM
America Day,” organised by Lindis
and her group. This year's event
included guests such as political
comedian Mark Thomas.
22 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
Image: Martin Jenkinson
FEATURE SPENDING CUTS
KEY SERVICES AXED
Alan Hughes, regional head of negotiations, shows how frontline provision is
being drastically reduced despite government promises to protect the vulnerable
ven before the
coalition government
announced its
comprehensive
spending review,
widespread cuts were being
announced across the public
sector in Yorkshire and
Humberside.
In the health service, which
the government promised to
protect, it was already clear
that there would be
significant redundancies.
The withdrawal of many
grant-funded contracts will
lead to major budget cuts in
E
the voluntary sector making a
mockery of Cameron’s “Big
Society”. Vital services such
as education, social care and
police are facing reduced
funding and redundancies,
which will impact on
communities across the
region.
Services provided by
councils have been targeted
by the government as prime
candidates for cuts of around
25 per cent. Sheffield Council,
run by the Lib Dems and
home to Nick Clegg’s
constituency, has sent out “at
Above: UNISON
members protest
at Sheffield rally
risk” notices to 8,500 staff and
issued threats to pay and
conditions, including the
reduction of sick pay and the
elimination of increments.
CUTTING PAY
In Leeds 650 jobs have been
cut over the last year and the
minority Labour council
plans a £150 million budget
reduction over the next four
years. Leeds like other
authorities has asked for
volunteers for early
retirement or severance as it
looks to shed 1400 jobs.
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 23
KNOCK-ON EFFECT
The coalition’s claim that it is
seeking to make savings in
back office jobs has been
challenged by the largest Torycontrolled council in the
region.
Richard Flinton, chief
executive of North Yorkshire
Council, has said that frontline
services like education and
transport will be hit. Cuts to
transport will affect
communities spread across
England’s largest county.
While the majority of
councils have yet to declare
the full impact of
redundancies, analysts are
predicting more than 10,000
job losses in local government
in the region with a knock-on
effect of 2,000 further jobs in
the private and voluntary
sector which rely on council
contracts and grants.
In the higher education
sector Leeds University has
announced plans to cut
around 100 academic and
support jobs in advance of
more drastic cuts following
the spending review. Other
universities in Sheffield, Hull,
York and Huddersfield are
planning to reduce staffing
levels but have yet to serve
notice, despite spending cuts
of £650 million planned for the
higher education sector.
Despite the government’s
promise to protect the health
service, many NHS trusts
have announced job cuts. In
Leeds 430 redundancies have
been signalled and this
pattern is echoed across the
region with up to 156 jobs to
go in Barnsley while
Doncaster Hospitals is
closing the laundry and
nursery and patients are
being told to travel to
Rotherham for a range of
services.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals
Trust is facing a budget
deficit of £55 million and is
planning to make more than
300 staff redundant. Many of
these are frontline staff
delivering direct care to
patients, as well as vital
services such as radiography,
pathology, physiotherapy
and cancer support.
Other NHS Trusts like
Scarborough and North East
Yorkshire are unable to fill
nursing posts. The trust is 75
nurses short which has a
direct impact on patient care.
Although many councils
have not announced job losses
yet, a number of smaller local
authorities are taking the
opportunity to cut pay and
conditions.
North East Lincolnshire is
getting rid of enhanced pay
for weekend working and
cutting sick pay. Councils in
north Yorkshire are targeting
mileage allowances for staff
who need their cars to do their
jobs in rural areas.
ANALYSTS
PREDICT
MORE THAN
10,000 JOB
LOSSES AT
COUNCILS
IN THE
REGION
DRASTIC ACTION
Government plans to abolish
primary care trusts and hand
commissioning of healthcare
to GPs and the private sector
have been criticised by
UNISON, RCN and the
doctors’ body the BMA. They
all believe that the plans are
being rushed through and
not tested and trialled. The
government intends to cut
30,000 jobs as a result of this
process.
Police authorities and chief
constables are taking drastic
action to live within their
budgets to cope with
predicted spending cuts of 25
per cent over four years.
Alan Hughes
Some forces have been
panicked into privatising all
police civilian jobs or issuing
redundancy warning notices
to all non-uniform staff. For
the first time for decades
police officer numbers are
going to be cut as forces
freeze job vacancies.
UNPAID VIGILANTES
Earlier this year West
Yorkshire Police advertised 60
police constable jobs - the
result was that 200,000 calls
were made to the vacancy
hotline which immediately
crashed. Now the West
Yorkshire force has cancelled
the last two recruiting
sessions and the police are
understaffed. West Yorkshire
like other forces are turning
to special constables, better
known as “hobby bobbies” to
work as unpaid vigilantes.
Undoubtedly, police
support staff and Police
Community Support Officers
(PCSOs) will be the hardest
hit. As the law stands, police
officers cannot be made
redundant, so it will be
colleagues who provide
valuable support to police
officers who are at risk. These
include fingerprint experts,
police photographers,
emergency call centre staff,
communications staff,
mechanics who maintain
police vehicles and case
builders who prepare
criminal cases for trial.
Many PCSOs are funded
jointly by councils and the
police force so as councils
lose their grants, hundreds of
these jobs will disappear
across Yorkshire and
Humberside. These officers
are vital in combating antisocial behaviour - the public’s
number one concern. 24 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
FEATURE POLITICS
THEY MUST LISTEN!
Active! editor Barrie Clement takes the political temperature of the region’s
Labour Party under the new national leadership of Yorkshire MP Ed Miliband
T
Brown, they say.
Clearly the only interests
which profited from the Battle
of the Bs were the Tories.
Both Blair and Brown
constantly claimed that
political journalists were
“making up” stories about
infighting. In reality each was
encouraging his aides to
spread poison about the other.
UNITED FRONT
It has become clear in the wake
of Labour’s general election
defeat that the bitterness
between the two men was only
too real.
“The last thing we need now
are two Miliband Tendencies
tearing at each other’s
throats,” says Wendy Nichols,
UNISON’s regional convenor.
“We want the two Miliband
Above: In 1990
before the two
Bs went to war
he battle between Ed
and David Miliband
is over – let’s make
sure it stays that way,
say Labour activists.
The elder brother’s retreat
to the backbenches puts him
out of the spotlight for a
while, but some of his
supporters may still be
tempted to see him as the
“king across the water”.
Senior Labour supporters
in the region say the party
must ensure that what ever
the next few years bring,
personal ambition should
not contribute to another
electoral defeat.
The party – and the
working people who depend
on it – cannot afford a re-run
of the kind of nonsense that
went on between Blair and
WE WANT
THE TWO
MILIBAND
BROTHERS
TO BURY
THE
HATCHET,
BUT NOT
IN EACH
OTHER’S
HEADS
brothers to make sure the
hatchet has been well and
truly buried – but not in each
other’s heads. And we must
make sure that no-one else
decides to start sniping at the
leader – from inside or outside
the Shadow Cabinet.
“Working people need the
Miliband brothers – and
anyone else with ambitions to
lead the party – to present a
united political front. Personal
political ambitions must not
come before the party. And
whoever people voted for in
the leadership election, they
should now unite behind the
one who was elected,” she says.
MURKY WORLD
Cliff Williams, UNISON
regional secretary and chair of
Labour in Yorkshire and the
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 25
- and most of the rest of the
country - who support public
services.
KEEP KNOCKING
Clegg’s isolation from the
majority of voters who want
to defend vulnerable people,
was underlined by the TUC
rally in Sheffield on 23
October. “The theme of
‘Clegzilla’ stomping all over
public services certainly
caught the imagination,” says
Cliff, who is also vice-chair of
the regional TUC.
He wants Chancellor of the
Exchequer George Osborne to
define exactly what he means
by “frontline” services so that
everyone knows what the
Tory coalition intends to
conserve and is determined to
destroy.
The Chancellor refused to
meet a delegation of trade
unionists when he visited
Leeds on 14 October, but Cliff
insists that unions should not
take No for an answer.
“We shouldn’t make the
same mistake as we did in the
80s and shun a Conservative
government. We are going to
knock on their doors – and
keep knocking until they
answer and start talking
sensibly to us. The alternative
is not an option. We have to
avoid ideological isolation.
“When people like Mervyn
King are talking about
partnerships we should take
them at their word,” he says.
Humber, points out that in
the last few years before the
election, the party leadership
had become self-obsessed
and had drifted too far away
from its political roots.
“It should be a matter of
deep shame to the Labour
Party that it took Vince Cable
- a Liberal Democrat for
goodness sake – to take the
bankers on,” says Cliff.
“Just imagine a minister in
the last Labour government
standing up and saying that
the murky world of
capitalism kills competition
and then going on to attack
the spivs and gamblers in the
City. Such a minister would
have been fired. He would
have been sacked for telling
the truth.”
Cliff believes that everyone
in the region who thinks the
wrong people are being
targeted to repair the
damage caused by the
bankers’ recession should
join “a coalition for fair
public services” which
would seek to win the
backing of people of all
mainstream parties or none.
“Labour is clearly the
natural home for working
people, but as trade unionists
we should be emphasising
the issues that are important
to us, rather then blindly
following the party. We don’t
want to fight for Labour’s reelection and find they have
the same policies as the
Tories. Labour in power has
to listen to the party.”
Cliff argues that an
alliance backing public
services would serve to
isolate the closet
Conservative deputy prime
minister Nick Clegg from the
rest of the Liberal Democrats
IT SHOULD
BE A
MATTER
OF DEEP
SHAME TO
LABOUR
THAT IT
TOOK VINCE
CABLE TO
TAKE ON THE
BANKERS
Run-Off
Ed Miliband, MP for Doncaster
North, won the Labour leadership
after narrowly beating brother
David in a dramatic run-off vote
at the party’s conference.
Ed won by just over one per cent
from David after second, third
and fourth preference votes
came into play.
Ed Balls, MP for Morley and
Outwood and now Shadow Home
Secretary, was third, Andy
Burnham was fourth and Diane
Abbott fifth.
RAISE BARRIERS
The coalition government is
fragile and Ken Curran, chair
of the regional Labour link
committee, believes it can be
destabilised on the issue of
the referendum to be held on
the Alternative Vote system
which would deliver more
coalitions at general
elections. The referendum
was a key part of the deal
signed by the Conservatives
and the Liberal Democrats
last May.
But Prime Minister David
Cameron says he is against
such a change and most Tory
MPs are fundamentally
opposed to anything which
undermines the simple “first
past the post” system.
And they are doing
everything they can in
Parliament to raise barriers
to its introduction, including
the imposition of a minimum
turnout in the referendum.
They are also trying to delay
the plebiscite, which is due to
take place on 5 May next
year.
“Whatever people’s
personal views on different
voting systems, we need to
make sure that the coalition
doesn’t enjoy an easy ride so
that they are free to carry on
destroying public services
and endangering the lives
and well-being of vulnerable
people,” said Ken. Ed Miliband
26 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
FEATURE DONCASTER RACES
Fun, sun and a flutter on the
More than 3,000 UNISON members and their families got away from it all at this year’s “Million Voices” raceday at Doncaster.
A
mid all the doom and gloom
UNISON gave members a
day to remember at the union’s
annual raceday at Doncaster.
Public service workers from all
over the region – and elsewhere
– came for a gathering of the
clans and flutter on the geegees.
“We do it to give something
back to the membership – and
we get a good deal from the
racecourse as far as tickets are
concerned,” says regional
convenor Wendy Nichols.
“It also gives the union
excellent publicity and links in
with our ‘million voices for public
services’ campaign. It gets the
name of the union in the public
domain, showing that it’s not just
Left: Sending
the message
Marion Perrett
and Enid Wright
Right: Nicola
Kenning (2nd left)
is the birthday girl
about strikes, it’s about the
family.
“Raceday gets better and
better every year, attracting
more and more of our
members. People really enjoy
themselves and at the same
time they’re identifying with the
union.
“I know our members enjoy
these days out – and they
deserve it. Given the massive
impact of public service cuts,
it’s somewhere they can come
and stop worrying about their
jobs for a day.”
Wendy pointed out that
UNISON had other links with
the sporting world, including the
union’s sponsorship of the
Sheffield Steelers, the region’s
elite ice hockey team.
Physically fit
Apart from discounted tickets for
UNISON members at ice hockey
matches, the players perform a
key role in the community,
working with schools and youth
clubs to promote the benefits of
eating correctly, avoiding drugs
and keeping physically fit.
Young generation
The union also sponsors the
British Amateur Rugby League
Association. In fact the union
has leant its name to the
“UNISON BARLA Under 21”
team.
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 27
geegees
It’s a winning smile
Sian Thomas reports
Talking horse sense
John Campbell (right) and first race winners
Gathering of the clans
Says Wendy: “It’s about
showing the younger generation
that trade unionism is a positive
movement – a force for good. We
are trying to undo the damage
done by the Thatcher years when
unions were painted as something
with which young people should
not be associated.”
“And we want to show that
UNISON is about fun and
enjoyment not just about work.
UNISON is basically a family and
it’s one that everyone in public
services can join.”
If you fancy a day out at
Doncaster races, next year’s
event is already being planned.
Date to be announced. Come
along, it’s excellent fun! Hen party with attitude
Hen party cowgirls - all dressed up for the rodeo
28 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
FEATURE BLACK MEMBERS
SCARS OF RACISM
School bullies targeted Pam Sian’s eight-year-old son because he wore the Sikh “topknot”. So Pam – now assistant regional convenor – took him to karate lessons to learn
how to defend himself. The teacher suggested she should learn the martial art herself.
Now she is a black belt (second dan) and one of UNISON’s leading regional and national
activists in the field of equalities. In an interview with Peter Carroll, Pam explains why
we must encourage members from every under-represented group to be active in the
union and all pull together to fight the government’s attacks on jobs and services
Left: We’re one
big family says
activist Pam
Image: Steve Morgan
NATIONAL
FRONT
THUGS
CARVED
THE
INITIALS
‘NF’
ON HIS
CHEEKS
WITH A
CRAFT
KNIFE
am Sian says she has
never personally been
the victim of racism.
But she knows all
about its terrible
consequences from one of her
nearest and dearest relatives.
When the National Front
were responsible for many
savage racist assaults in the
1970s, they attacked her
nephew in a street in Southall
and carved the initials NF
onto his cheeks with a craft
knife and slashed him
numerous times on his torso.
He has now grown a beard
which partially conceals his
facial scars but he cannot take
his shirt off on the beach
because of the scars the racists
left him with for the rest of his
life.
Pam said: “He has to live
with that and he has had to
explain to his children why
this terrible attack happened
to their dad.
“That is the price of racism
and the violence it promotes.
It is not something you can
ever forget.”
When her son Sandeep,
now a 21-year-old sports
psychology student in his
third year at Nottingham, was
bullied at first school, she took
him to karate lessons, took up
the martial art herself and
P
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 29
VITAL RESULTS
Oscar Wilde said the only
thing wrong with socialism is
that it takes up too many
evenings – does she know
what he was driving at?
“It is a very absorbing and
time-consuming way of life, but
it does become a way of life
“I could not have done so
much work for UNISON if it
hadn’t been for the
unwavering support of my
family, especially my husband
Charanjit. My family have
always backed me and
understood the demands my
work make on me and I could
not have done these things
without their help.”
She believes the work of the
black members’ self organised
group has achieved some vital
results over the years.
BIG SUCCESS
UNISON now has a formal
race discrimination protocol
which ensures all cases are
scrutinised by senior UNISON
officials and Thompsons
Solicitors.
Pam said: “This has
tightened everything up and
made sure no valid cases are
dismissed and the union and
our lawyers cannot be readily
accused of not dealing with
cases thoroughly. It is a big
success and makes us far
more effective in dealing with
race cases.
“And this year both
motions regarding stop and
search policies and race
discrimination, tabled by the
black members’ committee,
were debated and passed by
annual conference – the first
time it has happened. That is a
big thing.”
She thinks the main role of
self organised groups is to
encourage members who
might not feel confident
enough to speak of their
experiences in wider groups,
to gain confidence and
become active – to “get up” as
she describes it.
At the same time, they raise
awareness throughout the
union, and in society as a
whole, about issues facing
under-represented groups.
She was appalled to see a
small number of young Sikh
men joining the English
took her daughter Mandeep
(now 23 and teaching in a
Birmingham First School)
along with her.
Now all three have black
belts in Shotokan karate, a
process which takes at least
four years of regular and
intensive study and training.
Around the same time Pam
started getting heavily
involved in UNISON within
the West Yorkshire Passenger
Transport Executive and
became the branch publicity
officer, initially, she says, out
of “sheer nosiness” to find out
what was going on.
But she comes from a long
tradition of socialist activism
from her grandfather who was
a leading trade union activist
in India.
She became assistant branch
secretary, branch secretary
and women’s rep on the JNC –
and is now vice-chair of the
national black members’
committee, the passenger
transport forum and the
business and environment
equalities group. She also sits
on the national health and
safety committee, the national
women’s committee and the
water and environment service
group. Oh, and she also finds
time to be the region’s assistant
regional convenor as well.
MEMBERS
ARE IN THIS
TOGETHER
AND AN
INJURY TO
ONE IS AN
INJURY
TO ALL
Defence League rally in
Bradford, clearly subscribing
to a vicious brand of religious
sectarianism.
“They should go home and
read the history of their
forefathers and what they had
to contend with from the farright. They should be made to
understand that they are being
used. The Poles and other new
immigrants are facing what
their families faced in the 1960s.
“Have they not seen the
horrors in Northern Ireland
where religious differences
turned into murderous
violence?”
As the government’s
massive cuts programme
starts to ravage public
services, Pam says the only
way to fight for jobs and
services is to be unified.
She said: “The whole is
greater than the sum of the
parts. UNISON members really
are all in this together and an
injury to one is an injury to all.
We are one big, massive family
where we embrace each other
and fight for each other.” WhatWeDo
BlackMembers:
Play a key role in winning
equality in the workplace
Actively challenge racism
wherever it is found
Are at the forefront of UNISON’s
organising work
Enjoy UNISON’s support at local,
regional and national level
“As black members in UNISON we
work together to win positive
change in the workplace. The
more of us that are actively
involved, the stronger we become.
The stronger we are, the more
positive change we can achieve.”
HEARTS, MINDS
AND VOTES
n 2002 the BNP was
making dangerous
inroads in Eccleshill,
Bradford, so some
members of the
community decided to hold a
family day to “reclaim” the
place.
The BNP’s Yorkshire
organiser immediately
instructed a member called
Andy Sykes to round up a
gang of lads and smash the
event up.
I
Image: Robert Boardman
DEVASTATING
Fighting fascism and the electoral ambitions of the
BNP has long been a priority for UNISON in this
region. The arrival in August of the thugs of the English
Defence League in Bradford attracted international
media interest and united the city against violence and
hatred – but that unity didn’t happen by accident. Paul
Meszaros, campaign co-ordinator for Hope not Hate
in Yorkshire, says our job is to win hearts and minds –
and drag anti-fascism from the “ghetto of the far-left”.
Peter Carroll reports
Sykes, no stranger to street
violence at the time, balked at
attacking women and
children. He arranged to meet
Paul Meszaros who was
organising the family day.
Sykes turned coat, secretly
filming BNP members
plotting attacks on Asians and
lifting the lid on the party in a
devastating TV documentary.
Paul said: “It was an
extremely brave thing to do
and profoundly damaged the
BNP. He goes round schools
and colleges now telling
young people about the
dangers of racism and
extremism.
“It was an important
turning point and two years
later Hope Not Hate was
born.”
Research suggested
strongly that the aggressive
language and tactics used by
anti-fascists in the past was
counter-productive.
Urging people to kick the
BNP off the streets and calling
for mass battles was simply
an equal and opposite version
of fascist violence.
Instead, the policy was to
communicate positive stories,
to attract people of all races,
creeds and ages and
encourage them to vote
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 31
Opposite: The
English Defence
League peddle
their hatred
in Bradford
against the growing number
of far-right candidates.
So when Hope not Hate
decided to put a picture of
Winston Churchill on an
election leaflet – to emphasise
the BNP’s attachments to
Hitler and remind World War
Two veterans of what they
fought against – there were
angry complaints.
He was a “drunken slob”
who had brutally crushed
workers in the General Strike,
it was said. But, it was
pointed out, he did have a
fairly well-documented
record of standing up to
fascists. The leaflet resonated
with many people who might
otherwise have fallen for the
BNP’s scaremongering and
voted for them.
Paul said: “We knew we
had to change the way we
communicated with the
voters and the communities
but it was experimental.
“We tried a leaflet in one
area based on the nursery
rhyme Sing A Song of
Sixpence mocking the BNP’s
policies and candidates. The
response we got was very
informative. People were
getting in touch saying how
much they enjoyed the pisstake and we got quite a few
new people joining us and
helping to leaflet.”
The BNP has fallen from its
high point of popularity and
Hope not Hate has
undoubtedly been a major
success.
HOPE NOT HATE FEATURE
URGING
PEOPLE
TO KICK
THE BNP
OFF THE
STREETS
WAS AN
OPPOSITE
VERSION OF
FASCIST
VIOLENCE
POSITIVE
Unions, politicians of all
mainstream parties and
religious organisations and
ordinary people throughout
the city persuaded the
government to ban the march.
A static demonstration was
allowed to go ahead but it
was heavily policed and
despite some minor incidents
the EDL did not get the
violence it was after.
Paul said: “It is a matter of
winning hearts and minds
and the EDL have ironically
brought people in Bradford
together in a very positive
way.
“The Bradford Together
campaign was not just for the
EDL visit, it hasn’t gone away
and maybe people might now
start to demand things from
politicians which are
designed to promote stronger
links between different
communities and encourage
closer integration between
us.”
ABANDONED
ALARMING
But the fascist threat is always
lurking. The EDL’s recent
invasion of Bradford is
alarming evidence of that.
They described the planned
Bradford march as “the big
one” and were confident of
sparking devastating riots
similar to those the city
suffered in 2001.
But thanks to the efforts of
a coalition of anti-fascists
under the banner Bradford
Together, 10,000 signatures
were gathered calling for the
provocative march through
Asian communities to be
banned.
Paul Meszaros
Senior figures
in the last
Labour
government
have
belatedly
accepted that
one of the
reasons for
the rise of the
far-right in recent years is
because white working class
people have felt their needs
and concerns have been
ignored.
Paul believes Tony Blair’s
relentless pursuit of Middle
England and the swing
voters left whole swathes of
Labour voters feeling
abandoned.
This left fertile territory for
the BNP to exploit,
canvassing on local level
concerns like bins and dog
dirt and promising action.
And he believes the vast
majority of people who have
voted BNP in the past could
not be described as fascists.
Their worries were exploited
by the BNP who mixed
racism into the pot at the
same time.
He said: “To effectively
fight fascism, it is not enough
to be against something –
you have to be for something.
We need greater integration
between communities and
we need to make sure
politicians are genuinely
listening to what people are
saying.” If you would like to know more about
Hope Not Hate and would like to help the
campaign, the e-mail address is:
[email protected]
32 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
THE COLUMN A TYKE’S EYE VIEW
PAUL ROUTLEDGE
Political columnist on The Mirror
The Big Lie about the budget deficit
The ConDems claim there is no alternative to the massive cutbacks in public services. It’s not true, but it will test the fortitude of
everyone in the labour movement. We need to emulate the Leeds refuse workers who saw off the Tory/LibDem coalition a year ago
I HAVE FAITH
THAT UNIONS
AND THEIR
MEMBERS
WILL
WEATHER
THIS STORM
Right: The
livelihoods of up to
250,000 are at risk
hat a difference losing makes.
Having lost the general
election, our unions are free
of the burden of
automatically supporting a
Labour government, and the Labour Party
has made a clean break with the Blairite past.
These are scant consolations for living
under the heel of the ConDem coalition, a
Tory government in all but name. However
public service workers would have had a
fight on their hands if Chancellor Darling
was still in the Treasury, because Labour
planned big spending cuts if they won.
At least with this lot in power, trade
unionists are not fighting with one hand
behind their backs, tied there by political
loyalty to “our” government. The enemy is
clearly in sight.
And what an enemy! As I write, the boy
Chancellor George Osborne has wielded the
axe in his Comprehensive Spending Review.
W
As many as 250,000 jobs are at risk. Preemptive strikes by Tory and Lib Dem
councils are already under way in
Birmingham and Sheffield, with more than
30,000 men and women getting warnings of
redundancy.
Apart from the miners’ strike of 1984/5,
there has been nothing on this scale in my
lifetime, and I’ve been on the scene for
more than forty years. It is beyond the
experience of any union leader in post
today. And it will test the skill and fortitude
of everyone in the labour movement, from
workplace rep to general secretary.
But I have faith that unions and their
members will weather this storm. It’s
always a mistake to underestimate the
resilience and sheer damn pluck of working
people faced with a challenge to their way
of life. Look at the example of the Leeds
refuse workers, whose 11-week strike saw
off the Tory/Lib Dem coalition a year ago.
WINTER 2010 UNISON ACTIVE! 33
They were written off by council officers
and ignorant spin doctors – but they won.
This time the threat is wider. It goes right
across the board, based on what I call The
Big Lie, that “there is no alternative” to
getting rid of the budget deficit entirely
within five years. The last time this slogan
was wheeled out was in Thatcher’s reign.
She’s a distant memory. We’re still here.
MUCKY PUP
Dog muck was pushed through the letter
box of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s home
in Hallam, Sheffield . Police are hunting a
Mr Fido Hound. “We’ll feel his collar,” they
growled.
TICKET TOUTS
“Return of the bus conductors” was a
headline that looked too good to be true.
And so it is. Conductors are not coming
back on the buses in Sheffield, only to the
queues at bus stops to flog tickets. They’re
salesmen. Hold very tight, please, Ching!
Ching!
BLAH BLAH BLAIR
As chief political commentator of the Daily
Mirror, I was allowed to interview Tony
Blair in his Downing Street lair only once.
Things didn’t go very well. The presence of
Alastair Campbell was a nuisance but not
half as much as the booming interruptions
of my editor Piers Morgan. He was already
rehearsing for television stardom.
Having seen Blair in action so often, I
didn’t expect much and wasn’t
disappointed. He stuck to his hymn sheet
like a hellfire preacher. But I did insist on
asking the question buzzing round in my
head: “Why do you want to run the
country?”
There was silence - ever so short, but
revealing - before he began to blather about
social justice, the last refuge of a New
Labour scoundrel. I knew I’d never get a
straight answer, so I said “it’s all about
power, isn’t it?” And got more politicobabble. Tony’s autobiography, A Journey,
doesn’t mention this incident. But I
haven’t forgotten.
UNISON doesn’t get much of a mention
either. Only once, in fact, on page 640,
when he devotes one paragraph to
slagging off the unions, claiming they were
“deeply in the past and still activistdominated”. No mention of the loyal
backing UNISON members gave him for
fifteen years. No thanks for the millions
contributed to his election campaigns. No
recognition of the contribution made by
Rodney Bickerstaffe and Dave Prentis.
Only unstinted praise for global
capitalism, and regret for not having
privatised enough. Truly, this man was
never one of us.
CAR PARK SCAM
Hospitals in Yorkshire are making a mint
from car parking charges, and the
ConDem coalition says “Carry On Ripping
Off.” When he was Labour’s Health
Secretary, Andy Burnham pledged to end
the £100 million a year scam, but new Tory
minister Simon Burns has ratted on this
promise.
In 2008/9, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals
raked in £866,783, while Sheffield Teaching
Hospitals collected £1,110, 415 from
patients and visitors, a nice little earner for
fat-cat Trust bosses.
BEER ENGINE
“ANOTHER fire put out by courtesy of
Tetley’s Bitter.” No, not that way! This
could be the logo on your local fire engine
if service chiefs in south Yorkshire
have their way. They plan to sell
advertising space on fire
stations and appliances in a bid
to raise income in these cashstrapped times. Actually, I once did put
out a fire using Tetley’s, but I don’t think
we want to go there. Terminator
Council chiefs hate
people to know how
much they pay
themselves, but
sometimes they have
to come clean. Like
when they advertise
top jobs.
Hull council is
recruiting a new
“human resources”
executive, on £87,210 a
year for a 37 hour
week. The job
description talks about
“leading an industrial
relations agenda at a
time of significant
challenge.”
This gobbledygook
actually means
“getting rid of as many
employees as
possible.” The council
has asked 7,842 staff if
they would like to take
part in a “voluntary
early termination
agreement”, which
sounds like an
invitation to the
Dignitas suicide clinic
in Switzerland, but is
just another mouthful
meaning “redundancy”.
UNISON reps are
understandably furious
at this move by the LibDem controlled
council. Paying
ninety grand
to hire a jobs
executioner
for lowerpaid
workers is
an insult
to loyal staff.
34 UNISON ACTIVE! WINTER 2010
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS STRESS
NANETTE’S ORDEAL
Stress at work is the unseen industrial injury. Linda Millband of Thompsons
Solicitors, explains how potential claims can be resolved without legal action
T
in a daily form so he could see
what work she was doing and
had her responsibility to hire
staff removed.
He was also aggressive
towards her when challenged,
made sexual innuendos and
banned her from attending
important meetings vital to her
job. She was signed off sick
with stress and when she tried
to return to work, she suffered
panic attacks.
At one point she was rushed
to hospital with a suspected
heart attack.
Although her case eventually
went to court and the NHS
trust involved was found
negligent, her claim was dealt
with under UNISON’s
“protocol”.
The protocol has been
drawn up by Thompsons and
UNISON to try to resolve
potential stress claims without
recourse to law.
The protocol allows a
UNISON member to get swift
detailed advice on their
potential claim without having
to go through a long and
difficult interview with a
solicitor. It also allows UNISON
to consider whether an industrial
remedy – that is talking to the
employer about how the
situation could be resolved might be more appropriate.
The protocol says that the
first port of call for the
member should be the union
branch secretary who will try
to establish the issues involved
and whether they can be
resolved through talks.
he courts have made
it increasingly
difficult for
employees suffering
from work-related
stress to sue their employers.
Very few cases now
succeed. The worker has to
prove that the stress is severe
enough to have caused a
psychiatric illness and that
their employer could have
foreseen the impact of their
negligence. This is the most
difficult part of any stress case.
An employee must either
warn their employer directly
that they will suffer such an
injury, or get a medical adviser
to do so. It is not enough to
say that the employer should
have realised that the employee
would suffer from stress.
The onus is always on the
claimant to ensure that the
employer is alerted to their
problems at work as soon as
they arise.
But courts are not the ideal
place for a stress claim to be
resolved and the courts
themselves have recommended
mediation in such cases. A
claimant who has suffered a
breakdown may need to be
protected from the ordeal of
pursuing a claim.
UNISON member Nanette
Bowen was unable to return to
work after being bullied and
harassed for three years. The
information manager’s life
became hell after a new boss
stopped her providing
information without his
written consent, made her fill
AT ONE
POINT
SHE WAS
RUSHED TO
HOSPITAL
WITH A
SUSPECTED
HEART
ATTACK
This process also enables
the branch secretary to form
an opinion as to whether the
case would actually have a
reasonable chance of success if
it did end up in the courts.
If the matter cannot be
resolved at this stage, a
detailed questionnaire is
completed by the member and
the branch. Thompsons uses
this questionnaire to give
advice on the merits of the
claim directly to UNISON.
If there is clearly no possibility
of making a claim for damages,
UNISON will explain the
reasons to the member and
inform them of the time limits
should they decide to try to
pursue the claim without the
union’s backing.
If the case stands a chance
of success, it will proceed as a
normal personal injury claim
with Thompsons obtaining
medical evidence and starting
court proceedings if appropriate.
In 2008 more than 20
UNISON cases were settled
using the protocol. StepByStep
If a member is suffering from stress,
the first port of call should be the
branch secretary. She or he will
advise the member whether the
problem might be resolved through
talks with the employer.
If that is not a possibility - and there
is a case for legal action – Thompsons
Solicitors will become involved.
Linda Millband

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